Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Brendan Coyle on period drama, Downton Abbey and playing a modern man in Sky1's Starlings (RADIO TIMES)

Brendan Coyle on period drama, Downton Abbey and playing a modern man in Sky1's Starlings

Ellie Walker-Arnott
5:34 PM, 02 July 2013

You'll no doubt recognise charming and crinkly-eyed Brendan Coyle as loyal valet Bates in ITV's hit period drama Downton Abbey but the 49-year-old actor has more than just one string to his bow. He's currently starring in the second series of drama-comedy Starlings, which starts tonight on Sky1.

Tell us a little bit about Starlings…

Starlings is an extended family with Terry and Jan, played by myself and the wonderful Lesley Sharp, at the heart of it. There’s their three children, Grandad, Terry's half brother and Jan’s nephew, who lives in a caravan in the back garden. Due to unforeseen circumstances, they’re all thrown together with not enough space… with hilarious consequences!

What can we expect from the second series?

We’ve really pushed the boat out in terms of the dramatic content. Starlings was much lighter and brighter in series one. But people really buy us as a family now so the writers have been able to invest more in the challenges people face in their lives ­— illness, potential divorce, people leaving home, going through puberty, old age.

The boys - writers and stars Matt King and Steve Edge - wanted to challenge themselves. Series two has much more impact and much more punch. It starts off very comedically though, we lure people in.

The first episode hints that there might be trouble brewing in Terry and Jan’s marriage. What can you tell us about that?

Jan has decided that as the kids are growing up and leaving home that she wants to take a course to re-educate herself. It turns out Jan is a dab hand at writing and very much encouraged by her husband, she goes to pursue this literary side of herself. But in the course of doing that, she meets a man and the marriage is very severely tested.

By mid-series, there’s a real turning of the screw. The last three episodes really put me through the mill. Leslie is such a great dramatic actor that we decided to utilize those kinds of resources. This cast, comedic as it is - a dramedy I think they call it - are all pretty strong actors, so we can afford to be a bit more dramatic.

Matt King and Steve Edge write as well as star in the series. Do you ever get a say in what happens to Terry?

I don’t really need to. You’ve got to learn to trust your writers, unless the scripts are really bad!

I’m really happy with Starlings. But if we’re on set and a gag doesn’t work or a moment isn’t working - the directors might not agree with me about this! - but it’s very valuable for us to have the writers onset to tweak something. It’s great to have them around.

READ MORE: http://www.radiotimes.com/news/2013-07-02/brendan-coyle-on-period-drama-downton-abbey-and-playing-a-modern-man-in-sky1s-starlings

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